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From Milkweed to Bio-HMDA, Plant-Based Materials Growing

The use of plant-based and bio-based materials to replace synthetic or animal-based materials has taken hold as an important product development tool for the textile and apparel supply chain.

Now, two new products and are picking up that baton with an innovative insulation and a nylon fabric substitute.


Vegeto, a Canadian manufacturer of plant-based textile fibers, has launched a high-performance milkweed insulation material.

The new product represents a preferred, eco-friendly solution for the outdoor clothing and equipment market, notably jackets, handwear and sleeping bags, the company said.

“This new insulation material fills a gap in the textile industry–a plant-based, ecofriendly insulation textile that makes no compromise on performance,” Ghyslain Bouchard, general manager of Vegeto, said. “Our alternative, conceived and produced in Canada, does not rely on the usual model of using animal-sourced or petroleum-based products. We are sowing the seeds of change for the entire garment and textile industry.”

Vegeto, a Canadian manufacturer of plant-based textile fibers, has launched a high-performance milkweed insulation material.
A milkweed pod. Courtesy

The non-woven laminated textile insulation is a mix of milkweed and kapok fibers, and a biopolymer made from corn starch. Testing conducted at CTT Group, an independent laboratory, confirmed the product’s strong thermal insulation properties.

The insulation’s weight range meets the needs for mild spring weather, as well as for winter’s frigid temperatures, Vegeto noted.

“Study of the milkweed fiber’s properties revealed that its tubular form makes it an excellent thermal insulation material,” Bouchard said. “The hollow part of the fiber stores air and maintains temperature. It’s this natural characteristic, which synthetic materials try to reproduce, that inspired us to create our milkweed insulation textile.”

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Unlike synthetic or animal-based insulations, Vegeto uses plant-based components that will break down into industrial compost at the end of a garment’s or accessories’ useful life, he said.

“We want to work with manufacturers who share our business philosophy,” Bouchard added. “What Vegeto has accomplished sets the pace for the industry and we hope to get manufacturers on board and inspire them to explore further, off the beaten path.”


Material manufacturer Covestro and biotechnology specialist Genomatica have teamed up to successfully produce significant volumes of a plant-based version of the chemical raw material HMDA (hexamethylenediamine).

HMDA, with a worldwide market of 2 million tons per year, is a key ingredient for a widely used type of nylon, nylon 6.6, as well as an important component for raw materials for coatings and adhesives from Covestro. Up to now, HMDA has been manufactured from fossil feedstocks, but coatings and adhesives can be produced more sustainably thanks to bio-based HMDA, made from renewable feedstocks. Areas of application include textiles, fibers, furniture, automotive and construction.

The companies expect to produce ton quantities of high-quality material over multiple production campaigns. Both partners are already processing and testing material from their initial production campaigns, and the resulting bio-HMDA is of high purity and quality. The companies plan to advance the program to full commercial scale and Covestro has secured an option from Genomatica to license the resulting integrated GENO HMD process technology for commercial production.

Genomatica develops ingredients and materials using biotechnology and renewable, plant-based feedstocks rather than fossil feedstocks and their associated extractive processing methods. These materials are used by brands and their suppliers in popular goods ranging from apparel to cosmetics. Covestro brings extensive know-how in the field of research, chemical process technology and application development. The cooperation for the development of alternative raw materials based on biotechnology advances Covestro’s global program to achieve the circular economy.

Covestro established an R&D Competence Center for biotechnology to further strengthen its overall know-how in this field. Bio-based raw materials and biotechnology have also been identified as one of five focus areas at Covestro’s Venture Capital (COVeC) approach.

“The increased use of alternative raw materials, including the utilization of biotechnology, is an important pillar of our approach to fully embrace the circular economy and help make it a global guiding principle,” Covestro CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said. “Our program with Genomatica, which complements our internal R&D, is one of our largest external funding of biotechnology R&D to date, and underscores both the field’s importance to Covestro and the results it can deliver.”

Christophe Schilling, Genomatica CEO, said the company is committed to delivering a portfolio of sustainable materials that can help brands reduce the carbon footprint of their products while maintaining performance.

Covestro is a valued partner that is leading the way in improving the environmental impact of many of today’s most prevalent materials,” Schilling said. “Together, we are taking an important step to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a broad range of products we use in daily life.”